Sandra Zappa

Associate Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Exploring adolescents' development of intercultural competence through the Canadian interprovincial student exchange (2022)

To help live harmoniously in a multicultural country with two official languages, young Canadians must develop skills to interact with fellow citizens; that is, they need to develop their intercultural competence (IC). To this end, there are many educational initiatives in Canada, such as the Canadian interprovincial student exchange. Through this exchange, secondary students from English-dominant provinces are paired with students from Québec. In turn, each paired participant lives with their host family, and hosts their partner, each for three months.Drawing from Deardorff’s process model of IC, the cultural intelligence model and learning theories, I used a mixed methods design to assess and understand the possible intercultural growth amongst participants in this exchange. Original aspects of this design include the sampling design and methods used (i.e., quasi-experimental design assessing various aspects of the exchange, and the researcher-designed participant ethnographic journal). One hundred study participants were recruited (38 exchange participants, of which 13 completed the journal, and 62 in the control group). Statistical results suggest that the exchange led, on average, to an increase in IC, as measured by the Cultural Intelligence Scale.Through thematic qualitative analysis (of interview and journal data from 14 of the exchange participants), which at times supported or contrasted with the quantitative data, I developed a series of interconnected themes. These themes showed that the ways participants achieved intercultural growth were varied and complex. For example, on the one side, participants who forged strong relationships benefitted from socialisation and developed IC. On the other side, by analysing disorienting incidents, participants were able to decentre from their own perspectives, appreciate perspectives of others, and adjust their behaviour, which helped them develop IC.Drawing on these findings, I developed a framework identifying plausible pathways to IC development for adolescent exchange participants, which can be used in future research for better understanding IC development. The study findings also point to important pedagogical implications; chiefly, the need to offer better intercultural preparation, including hosting preparation, and the value of reflection (e.g., through completion of the ethnographic journal designed for this study) to help optimise exchange participants’ IC development.

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Pandemic transformations and settler discourse stabilities in Canadian English-language teacher identity (2022)

The outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020 prompted a shift to emergency remote teaching (ERT) in many regions. This dissertation study investigates the nature and impacts of the ERT transition on the professional knowledge and identities-in-discourse of English language teaching (ELT) instructors in Canada. It adopts a discursive constructionist perspective framed by discursive psychology to show how occasioned descriptions by participants in research encounters made visible various disruptions and stabilities in Canadian ELT early in the pandemic. The methods included individual interviews, focus groups, vignette responses, and written reflections with 15 ELT instructors in the Canadian postsecondary, adult education, and for-profit education sectors. This manuscript-based dissertation includes three independent, interrelated manuscripts. In each I apply thematic and discourse analysis to selected data subsets as a product of situated social practice by attending to how the data were co-constructed through participant interaction with me. The first paper describes how ELT instructors in one representative program navigated digital inequities among their learners, balanced digital literacies and language teaching in an accountability framework, and managed boundaries and expectations ‘up’ and ‘down’ in the language-program hierarchy. The second paper identifies, across Canada’s ELT sectors, cascading flows of vulnerability from students onto instructors; socio-technical supports for teaching that were described as constraints; and intertwining economic and existential anxieties. The third paper shows how settler-colonial histories and discursive hierarchies of language and nationality were circulated in interaction as a settlement English and postsecondary instructor performed expert identities in accounts of pandemic teaching practice. This project makes two key contributions to applied linguistics and TESOL. In reporting on adaptations by ELT instructors in the initial ERT transition, it shows how defining patterns of the Canadian ELT profession, including precarious employment in the neoliberal economy and settler-colonial histories, were made visible in my interactions with participants at a unique moment of historical disruption. Methodologically, this project underscores the importance of reflexivity for ELT research and advances an understanding of language-teacher identities-in-discourse. I suggest this methodological realignment may help address the longstanding gap between ELT theory and practice.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Exploring postsecondary students' use of proofreading services at a Canadian university (2018)

Many postsecondary students engage the services of a proofreader at some stage in their academic career. Such third-party interventions in the production of student texts, classified as a form of literacy brokering (Lillis & Curry, 2010), have raised questions of ethics and academic integrity. In recent years, researchers have begun to examine students’ use of proofreading services from multiple perspectives; however, much of the previous research has focused on graduate students’ dissertations and writing for publication (e.g., Li & Flowerdew, 2007; Turner, 2012), whereas less attention has been paid to other genres of student writing or proofreading practices among undergraduates, and the North American context has rarely been considered. In addition, there is little empirical evidence to support the assumption that proofreading is practiced predominantly by non-native English speakers. This mixed methods study was carried out based on the theoretical framework of academic literacies, a social practice approach to the study of literacy, particularly writing, in academic contexts (Barton & Hamilton, 2000; Lea & Street, 1998). The use of proofreading among students at a large Canadian research university was investigated through an online student survey and follow-up interviews. The aims of the study were to determine who uses proofreading services and to explore their reasons for doing so, the nature and extent of proofreading they receive, and how they perceive this practice to affect their development of language and writing skills as well as other outcomes. The findings suggest that students who use proofreading are diverse and do not conform to any binary categorization. Although there were some differences between self-identified native English speakers and non-native English speakers with respect to their learning outcomes and relationship with their proofreaders, most participants across both groups used proofreading to improve their writing skills and reported learning from the proofreader’s corrections. In addition, use of proofreading has potential to affect writers’ identity and relationships with others in their academic communities. The findings of this research study have implications for writing instruction at every level of postsecondary education and reveal the need for clearer policies on proofreading of all genres of academic writing.

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